Tuesday, May 12, 2015

18th Annual EARDH Conference

Even though I haven't been working for the last year I still have responsibilities for maintaining my dental hygiene licensure.  One of those responsibilities is attending a certain number of continuing education (CE) hours every year, which can be tricky when living a gazillion miles away from the states that I am licensed in.  But, I am not the only American dental hygienist in Europe!  

The European Association of Registered Dental Hygienists (EARDH) is a professional organization sponsored by the American Academy of Dental Hygiene (AADH) that provides CE and fellowship.  EARDH members are all American educated & licensed dental hygienists.  We are a mix of military-associated with non-military, and contracted hygienists with private practice hygienists, working all across Europe.  Some of us could speak the native language of whichever country we're working in (not me) and some couldn't, but what we all had in common was being American living in Europe, and facing the same challenges working in countries where our profession is not recognized.  We are united by a passion for dental care and a mission for treating & educating the European dental community!

This years conference was held at the Schloss Steinberg Hotel in Würzburg, Germany, and I could not get over the view!  We have been living here for two years now and Germany is never not breathtaking!  Eric and I visited Würzburg almost exactly a year ago, but what I didn't tell you at the time was that we were smack dab in the middle of IVF.  I was waddling around with swollen ovaries and miserable.  It was nice to go back and see the city from a different view with shriveled, broken ovaries that don't hurt... useless, but don't hurt.  

Yes, these are actual pictures overlooking Würzburg that I took with my camera!  Germany really is this beautiful!  

My best friend, Melissa, and I attended the conference together {yep, there are two American dental hygienists living in Germany who are named Melissa!  Germany, you don't know how lucky you are! ;o) }, and were put in the first of two of the most romantic awkward rooms the hotel had to offer.  We spent the first night in a very romantic room in the castle, complete with heart pillows, red walls, red carpet, red tapestries, and fake rose petals.  We spent the second night in the new part of the hotel where the shower was in the middle of the room for full voyeuristic pleasure.

For the perverts out there.... other than a lot of giggling, it was a very platonic weekend.

The conference filled two and a half days with all the topics that feed the brains of dental professionals: "Peri-implantitis," "Clinical Considerations for the Medically Compromised Patient," "Use of Cone Beam Tomography in Dentistry," aaannd 'Yoga in the Dental Practice'!!   
This is what I was thinking while doing yoga: "I am seriously doing yoga right now.  -Oh wait, that kinda hurts...the instructor can't tell if I just don't put my leg up that high, can he?-  I am doing yoga with an incredible group of people and one of my best friends, next to a vineyard, overlooking Würzburg- where xrays were invented!  -Wowza, my body is supposed to bend that way?!-  I am in Europe, taking CE courses, exactly 5 years after graduating college..... If only my instructors & professors were here to see this.  I don't even care how ridiculous I look right now! -And so since I'm doing yoga does this mean the two glasses of wine I drank last night count?  Like don't the calories evaporate with yoga?  Yeah, I think they do... so does that mean I can have two more glasses tonight?  Sweet..-"
And yes, that is a vineyard! 

If there was ever a question of why getting your teeth cleaned is important, please come to a country where it doesn't exist, and then tell me how you feel when your gums are sore and bleeding, and your mouth is full of bacteria that is affecting the rest of your body, and you can't find anyone to take you seriously or treat it, you might start to see things from my perspective.
Dental Hygiene is not a recognized profession in Germany, which obviously, was a big topic among us EARDH members.  This is what I found through Deutscher Diplom Dental Hygienikerinnen Verband e.V (the German Dental Hygiene Association) on a profession that doesn't technically exist in their association:

"The state recognized dental hygienist with diploma is a dental professional. Her main goal is the Periodontal Therapy. As a competent member of the dental profession, her strength lies in the multifaceted treatment care that results in the accomplishment of optimal oral health. As far as recognition in German is concerned, only continued education programs with no more than 950 on the job-training hours mostly without supervision are available via the Dental Assistants. They have been given the name of our profession.
There are approximately 150 Dental Hygienists with international qualifications and diplomas working in Germany (all foreign trained). These Dental Hygienists with Diplomas work mainly in private practice. The employing dentist is responsible for the work the hygienist performs. The dental hygiene profession is not protected in Germany. At the moment a University-Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene on a European level is being installed. But the Dental Hygiene Profession and its legality are still missing."

Also, there is this information from the International Federation of Dental Hygienists (IFDH): click HERE.  

The results of not having adequate education and competency in preventative oral health care??  90% of the entire German population have periodontal disease!!  90%!  
I am not telling you this to shame the German dental community, the doctors and hygienists that I met all had the same dental vision that we do in the States, I'm telling you this because preventative oral health care is so essential, and the dentists & hygienists that we met agreed!  They have studied the same science we have, and are conducting their own studies, all of which have the same conclusions- why some European countries won't acknowledge dental hygiene as an essential healthcare profession seems to be a mix of mistrust from the patients and a giant lack of understanding of what exactly it is we do from the dental professionals. 

 Dr. Kossack giving a presentation on Paro Status, an innovative voice controlled perio software that he designed.

Even though dental hygiene is not a recognized profession here, it does NOT put them in the dark ages!  They have all the same dental specialties that we do in the States, prosthodontists, periodontists, endodontists, orthodontists, etc..., all the same science, and all the same technology...and are even ahead of us in lots of those areas.  In larger cities like Munich, Frankfurt, and Berlin a lot of money is being paid to American licensed dental hygienists!  There is a big demand for us...how do you think Melissa and I got our jobs?  With such an enormous percentage of people with periodontal disease, there are pockets to scale, bacteria to treat, and money to be made.  We are pioneers on the dental hygiene forefront here, and that's exciting.... and frustrating.

This protocol is being taught in Switzerland hygiene programs and dental schools, which is where Ms. Bush has been teaching and working for 35 years.  Their aim is to preserve teeth with severe periodontal disease- we're talkin' pockets that measure 10+ millimeters- teeth that are being treated by a Periodontist in the States are the teeth being treated in general dental practices in Switzerland.  This is a proven and effective protocol there! 
Learning about this, discussing this, and debating it broadened our minds on effective treatments.  Seeing, working with, and talking to dental professionals in other countries was an incredible way to open our minds, reminding us that not everything starts and stops with only what works in America.  
However.... I think I'll still let the Periodontists treat my patients with these kinds of conditions.  But that's just me.

Ms. Bernita Bush, RDH, is an American dental hygienist who has lived and worked in Switzerland for 35 years. She speaks fluent German.

Isn't that all so interesting?!  But I promise our entire weekend wasn't spent only sitting in lectures.  In between lectures there was lots of talking, snacking, laughing, and wine drinking.  Meals were included in the price of the conference so we ate dinner in the wine cellar of the castle one night, the castle dining room another night, and lunch out on the patio overlooking the city.  Conversations never stopped and it felt like I had known these people for years!  It doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, if you come across another American when traveling you're instant friends!  And that's what this weekend was... meeting friends, discussing our careers, and comparing travel adventures...with wine and gorgeous scenery, it just doesn't get any better!

We left the conference with 17 credit hours and new friendships!  But so much more important than that, we left with a wider and deeper perspective of worldwide oral health care and protocols.  
I've been happy not working for the past year, but I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't miss it.  Eric and I have been focusing on and coming to terms with the end of our fertility, and have had to grieve the children we had hoped to but will never have- not working has allowed me to do that in peace.  But, being at the EARDH cleared the cobwebs that had started to form in the back parts of my brain, it brought out all of the geeky science stuff that I just love!  You may be able to take the girl out of the hygiene operatory, but you can't take the love of hygiene out of the girl!  My brain soaked up every bit the conference gave me and I am already looking forward to next year!

Oh!  I want to say 'Happy {belated} Mother's Day' to ALL mom's out there!  Fur-mommies, loss-mommies, and all the mom's in between.  I know how difficult Mother's Day can be when you're holding your baby in your heart rather than you arms, please know my thoughts were with you all on Sunday  You are a warrior mommy, and I hope you were treated as the most special mom you are!
My Mother's Day started with breakfast in bed with the menu decided by my daughter, roses, and mimosas.  Eric pretty much waited on me hand & foot, mostly because he's amazing that way, but also because I was tired from the weekend and when I'm tired I tend to get whiny, Isabelle was extra cuddly, and I swear I felt my son around me all day.   

"Where your pleasure is there is your treasure: where your treasure there is your heart; where your heart, there is your happiness."   ~Saint Augustine

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